Aari McDonald’s Return To Play Brings Spark Off Bench

Aari McDonald #2 of the Atlanta Dream warms up before the game against the Connecticut Sun on July 22, 2023 at Gateway Center Arena in College Park, Georgia. Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images)


Guard Happy To Be Back After More Than A Month


By: Jameelah Johnson

When Atlanta Dream’s Aari McDonald suffered a torn labrum in her left shoulder the team was only in its fifth game of the season battling the Las Vegas Aces. Following that June 2 game until the July 18 game against the Minnesota Lynx –  McDonald sat on the sidelines watching her teammates compete.

“It was a tough little-over-a-month for me just watching my teammates but at the same time I was really proud of them,” McDonald said of viewing the seven-game winning streak Atlanta went on. “They had a successful end of the stretch of the first half of the season.”

As McDonald went through her rehabilitation – not only did she have to abstain from shooting – she also wasn’t permitted to run. What was one thing she could do for cardio? The stationary bicycle. She credited the Dream medical staff with making sure she stayed as active as she could in the safest way.

“I would say, all my teammates played a big part of me staying encouraged and staying ready.” Having a solid support system is a key component in returning from injury and McDonald had that in her team.

Atlanta’s Danielle Robinson underwent a left knee arthroscopy on May 31 and was a major source of encouragement for McDonald. “She was instrumental with my injury…she was always talking to me.”

Mcdonald returned to action on the road against the Connecticut Sun on Thursday, July 20. She logged 16:28 minutes and scored seven points on 3-9 shooting while donning a shooting sleeve that covered her left arm and shoulder.

“For one, yeah I have to wear the sleeve because it keeps my shoulder protected and it keeps everything restricted because they don’t want my shoulder to get loose because it can pop back out,” McDonald explained after Saturday’s game against the Sun. “I have to get comfortable shooting with it, sadly it’s my shooting arm. It’s just a constant reminder that when I shoot or anything, I have to keep my elbow up.”

She finished 5-11 from the field for 14 points.

“For us, our team is not complete unless we have everybody and so Aari is a big piece of that,” Dream head coach Tanisha Wright said regarding McDonald’s return. “Having somebody with Aari’s growth from last year and Aari’s capability in terms of what she can do for us on the defensive end and how she spreads the floor for us on the offensive end, it’s nice to be able to have somebody like that back.”

“My thought process coming back was ‘I have to integrate myself in what they’re doing and, you know, what they were successful at,’” McDonald remarked on observing the team hit their groove before the All-Star break. “I’m happy I’m able to be back and join the team and just contribute with what I can.”